May 24, 2010

Rand Paul's pro-racist libertarianism

You've probably seen the controversy over Kentucky Republican Rand Paul's libertarianism. If not, you can read about it here:

Rand's pro-racism position:

An Easily Debunked Denial

Rand's attempts to deny his pro-racism position:

LightSpeed WalkBack

And John Stossel's support of Rand's pro-racism position:

Fox News Echoes Rand Paul’s Claim that Racism and Discrimination Are Rights

I had fun mocking Paul on Facebook. For instance: I think the Republican Tea Party has found a new agenda item. NO to healthcare reform, financial reform, oil-spill regulations, immigration, ethnic studies...and now, NO to civil rights. Look for the RTP to get 100% of the white racist vote in November!

New sign at Republican Party headquarters: "Blacks and Latinos not served here."

Republicans seek to expand Rand Paulism: "We oppose laws against wife-beating and child abuse. Private individuals should be able to do whatever they want to other private individuals without government interference."

Obviously, laws against unsafe working conditions, sweatshops, child labor, etc. must go. No government interference in the marketplace!

Headline: Republicans seek return to golden era of 1890s. "Those were the days," said Rand Paul, "when robber barons could do whatever they wanted. When men didn't have to think about women, minorities, or the environment. We need to return to the times when profit and wealth trumped every other consideration."
Tim Wise does it better

I thought about doing a serious deconstruction of the stupidity of Paul's position. Fortunately, the brilliant Tim Wise did it for me:

Rationalizing White Supremacy:  Racism, Free Markets and the Morally Obtuse Rand Paul

Basically, Paul destroys the ivory-tower idiocy of libertarianism with real-world arguments. I suggest you read the whole thing.

One point is particularly relevant here. It's the conservative idea that government action--Civil Rights laws, affirmative action, welfare, healthcare reform, ethnic studies, etc.--is wrong because it helps one class of people (poor minorities) at the expense of another (rich whites). It's the idea that America should be color-blind because, well, that's what the Constitution says.

Wise explains why this belief is dangerously naive:Back to the racial issue, to venerate the property rights of business owners, say, in the era of segregation--and thus to claim that it was inappropriate for the state to force them to serve blacks, or hire them, no matter how morally offensive racism may be--is to ignore that the accumulation of their property in the first place was in large measure due to having been protected by the state from competition all those years. If the government has consistently intervened, not only against people of color via state-sponsored racism, but in favor of whites via the same process, then the property over which white business owners came to have control (and which libertarians view as sacrosanct) was ill-gotten gain. To suggest the state, which was implicated in the unjust accumulation of that property by whites in the first place, now has no right to force compliance with public laws intended to provide equity of opportunity and access is perverse. It suggests that businesses can be subsidized by the state but not regulated by it, that individuals can reap the unearned benefits of state action but not be expected to bear any of the costs.

To bow to the private property rights of whites under segregation would have been to capitulate to the existing distribution of stuff at that time, which distribution had come about not in a free market, such that the distribution could be said to have been fair (under market principles), but rather, as a result of government intervention. It would have meant accepting government intervention of the first order (on behalf of whites), but then saying, after the fact, that there could be no corrective intervention on behalf of those deliberately oppressed. Not to mention, those stores and restaurants that were segregated received shipments of goods on trucks subsidized by highway construction, especially after the creation of the interstate system under President Eisenhower. Shipment of goods on these government-built roads and interstates brought down the cost of those goods (and thus boosted profits for those businesses) relative to what their cost would have been had each store owner had to have his own truck, and pay privately for the roads that would bring him his products.

Even today, private businesses all receive indirect if not direct subsidies from government, such that there is no truly "private" enterprise. Unlike a private club, a business that engages in commerce is receiving any number of public benefits from government policy, and thus, to suggest the owners of said property should have the unimpeded right to do as they please is morally absurd.

Bottom line: Only someone who has never personally felt the dehumanizing sting of racial oppression could have such a childlike faith in the ability of the market to solve the problem of racism, or the adequacy of simple private boycotts to force racist business owners to change their ways. And only someone who has never had their fundamental dignity and worth questioned as a result of their skin color could suggest patience as a solution to that maltreatment. As in, the kind of patience required for markets to correct, even in theory, any number of social maladies.
The short version of this is that white people founded the white government of the United States to protect and extend their white power. Whites dominated everything--government, business, religion, science, art, etc.--until the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 1960s. Has 50 years of alleged equality undone 450 years of white supremacy and created a level playing field? No.

"Property rights" = white power

Wise concludes by explaining how Rand's libertarian views support our society's white-power structure:And here's the really important visual to consider: to suggest that those property owners were right to say they "shouldn't have to serve" blacks, and that their property rights were more important than the right of all people to be treated like human beings, is to side with the white thugs who surrounded those brave young men and women--black and white--who had sat down on lunch counter stools and refused to move. It is to side with the mob as they screamed hateful epithets in the direction of Diane Nash (whose name I'd bet Rand Paul has never even heard, let alone her story), and John Lewis, and Bernard Lafayette, and Paul La Prad, in Nashville, among others. It is to say that those racist goons were on the right side, philosophically at least. That they were the ones with a better understanding of what America was supposed to be about, rather than those dignified and courageous souls whom they attacked. That they were the patriots who truly loved their country and had a deep appreciation for the Constitution. It is to side with the cops as they dragged peaceful demonstrators from lunch counters, because after all, the latter were trespassing on "private property."Even if Paul doesn't literally advocate racism, he advocates that we ignore racism and keep the racists in power. That's essentially a pro-racism position. Call it neo-racism for the sake of argument.

My position on neo-racists like Paul is: The majority determines what's right and wrong in America, not you. And the majority favors government action such as the Civil Rights Act. If you don't like it, get the hell out of our country.

Go somewhere where you can live in libertarian anarchy, free from government interference. Perhaps a failed Russian or African state would be your dream home. Stop your anti-minority whining and start practicing what you preach.

For more on the subject, see Libertarianism = Anarchy and Highlights of US Report to the UN on Racism.

Below:  KY-SEN candidate Rand Paul (R).